Rugby: Laidlaw named as Highlanders chairman

Ross Laidlaw has been named as the new Highlanders chairman.

Laidlaw replaced Stuart McLauchlan on both the board and in his role as chairman after a board meeting in Dunedin last night.

With his appointment to the Highlanders board, Laidlaw will resign from his role as a member of the Otago Rugby Football Union board on which he has sat for the past two years.

Laidlaw (59) is a retired corporate lawyer, who lives in Wanaka.

"As a member of the Otago board, I was familiar with some of the issues facing the Highlanders," Laidlaw said.

"My first task will be to become thoroughly familiar with the whole business and I'll be talking to those most involved as soon as I can."

Dunedin-born Laidlaw is a University of Otago law graduate and gained a masters degree in law from Yale University in Connecticut, where he was also a postgraduate fellow.

He worked for law firms in Invercargill, Auckland and London and has pursued his own business interests since the mid-1980s.

He has been involved with businesses in the bloodstock, energy and commercial property sectors.

He is a distant relation of former All Black and Otago halfback Chris Laidlaw.

McLauchlan announced his resignation from chairman position last week after five years in the role, saying increasing business commitments meant he could not devote the time to the job.

The board has undergone radical change in the past year with four members leaving.

The New Zealand Rugby Union agreed in June to underwrite the struggling franchise for the next two years, but with that came the right to appoint a board member and appoint a chairman.

NZRU board member Mike Eagle, of Christchurch, is the NZRU board's representative on the board.

Laidlaw is an independent board member appointed by the NZRU and was elected chairman by board members last night.

The Dunedin City Council will also have a board member but council chief executive Jim Harland said the process to decide on the board member was still being worked through.

Harland said he was attending board meetings on behalf of the council in the meantime.

He hoped an appointment would be made by Christmas but said it would not be a councillor or a council staff member.

Highlanders: The board

Ross Laidlaw (Independent) (chairman), Mike Eagle (NZRU board), Angus Bradshaw (Independent), Michael de Buyzer (North Otago), Adrian Read (Otago), Murray Acker (Southland), Dunedin City Council member (yet to be appointed)Left this year: Malcolm Farry (Independent) - did not seek re-election, Gary Muir (Southland) - replaced by Acker, Steve Thompson (Otago) - resigned for business reasons, Stuart McLauchlan (Independent) - resigned for business reasons.

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